U.S.A. vs. Mexico
Wednesday, April 2; 8 pm PT; University of Phoenix Stadium; Glendale, Ariz.
TV: ESPN, WatchESPN, UniMas (Spanish), ESPN Deportes Radio Network
It is getting down to crunch time for the U.S. National Team in preparation for the 2014 FIFA World Cup in June. For the 19 MLS-based players who were called in for Wednesday’s friendly against Mexico, the time is now to prove that they belong on Jurgen Klinsmann’s roster.
“Everyone knows the clock is ticking and that they need to impress in those games with their club, and the only way you can impress is if you play from the beginning on. So the players have a sense of urgency now,” Klinsmann said this week.
The match will be the first meeting between the U.S. and Mexico since a 2-0 win for the Americans in Columbus, Ohio, last September, securing advancement to the World Cup. The intense rivalry between the two countries on the soccer field will provide a competitive backdrop as Klinsmann looks to evaluate the players he has called in for the match.
That roster is made up of several players who are veritable locks to board the plane for Brazil in June. Clint Dempsey, Landon Donovan, Michael Bradley, Omar Gonzalez and Matt Besler have been key pieces for the U.S. under Klinsmann and Graham Zusi is also a favorite to be included.
The rest of the players who have been in Arizona since Sunday are in a battle for positions, using every opportunity possible to audition for that trip.
Clarence Goodson, Michael Parkhurst and Maurice Edu all came back to MLS after stints in Europe looking for the opportunity to play and earn a trip to Brazil. Others like Kyle Beckerman, Brad Davis, Eddie Johnson and Chris Wondolowski have shown well at times, but are on the fringe and will need to impress Klinsmann to ultimately be included. Meanwhile, Sounders FC’s DeAndre Yedlin joins a group of young upstarts that have leapt onto the scene recently, along with Luis Gil and Tony Beltran. In addition, Klinsmann will also have 18-year-old Bayern Munich forward Julian Green available for the first time.
“They need to prove now that they badly want to go to Brazil. Therefore, it’s going to be a tense couple of days,” Klinsmann said. “It’s going to be a test for what they can expect going into our World Cup preparations because it’s performing at the right time. It’s about understanding that they have to be tough now. It’s not about slowly getting into a rhythm. It’s about showing if you deserve to get into this World Cup roster. In that way, it will be a little bit different camp. It will be measured different because it’s the last game before we go into World Cup preparations.”
In addition to being the biggest rivals for the U.S., Mexico is also looking to prove something after struggling through World Cup qualifying last year, getting into the World Cup by winning a two-game playoff against New Zealand after going just 2-3-5 in the Hexagonal to finish fourth.
Even still, it is a team in flux as Miguel Herrera is still listed as interim coach – a post he has held since October when he was the team’s fourth head coach in the span of one month.
Similar to the U.S., Mexico will be looking to evaluate a roster made up entirely of Liga MX players, highlighted by seven players from Club America.
That opposition raises the expectation for Klinsmann’s side.
“What we expect is that they show a really strong performance against a Mexican team that is now basically coming back on track,” Klinsmann said. “They got their lessons in 2013, very harsh lessons that they had, many coaching changes, and now they want to get back on track.”
This will be the final friendly for the U.S. ahead of the send-off series from May 27-June 7, in which Klinsmann will make final preparations for the World Cup with matches against Azerbaijan (May 27 at Candlestick Park in San Francisco), Turkey (June 1 at Red Bull Arena in Harrison, NJ) and Nigeria (June 7 at EverBank Field in Jacksonville).